Through the blood and the guts of this man-made hell

Walked a giant of a man the Cowboys knew well

As the huddle broke you could hear them moan

And the Cowboys wished they'd all stayed home

Big John

Skip Whitmore can tell you how a vacuum cleaner works a lot easier than he can explain his poetic inspiration. His psalm to Redskin running back John Riggins, sung to the tune of Big Bad John, a Jimmy Dean hit of the early 1960s, came to him in more of a steady glow than a blinding flash.

"I just got the idea and mentioned it to my wife. Then she kind of egged me on," said Whitmore, the 42-year-old owner of a Fairfax vacuum cleaner and sewing machine shop who spent $600 to record his "Tribute to Big John Riggins." By the time the Redskins kicked off to Dallas, Whitmore's song was the hottest hit in town.

"I've had two talent scouts call me. The radio station (WPKX-FM) said the phone was ringing off the hook and they didn't even know my last name," said Whitmore, who can't remember being moved to poetry by anything before.

When Redskin fever is burning bright, when the air is electric with what another Redskin bard, 11-year-old Alan Bashe calls the "stinging sense", most fans will stand up and sing the dozen or so words they know to "Hail To the Redskins" or raise a foamy toast to defense.

For some Redskins fans, chants of "We're No. 1" are too simple. They bake cakes, knit burgundy and gold sweaters and write devotional poems to their favorite players.

"I don't know how much stuff we have here," said one team official at Redskin Park last week. "I know we've gotten about 10 cakes in the last two weeks. The poems get sent directly to the players."

The quality of those poems may not threaten the legacy of Longfellow or Whitman. Rhymes get tortured occasionally and metaphors get mixed in the swirl of emotion. But the offerings, from bowling machine mechanics, security guards and grade schoolers, are straight from the heart.

"I've been a Redskin fan ever since I was a little boy," says Sam Johnson, a 47-year-old security guard at Mt. Vernon, the ancestral home of George Washington. By Monday of last week, he had composed his Super Bowl verse.

We beat the Dallas Cowboys, we're really on a roll

It's the Redskins and the Dolphins in Sunday's Super Bowl

But out in Pasadena, they say the 'Skins won't win

It's the same thing we've been hearing, but let the game begin

Johnson likes to write poetry, but needs inspiration. That, he explains, is why he never wrote one about George Washington. "He wasn't a running back," said Johnson.

Kevin Gartland had ulterior motives for writing "Ode To The Redskins." The 29-year-old New Yorker, who moved to Washington two weeks ago, had been a die-hard Jets fan.

"Instead of suffering the abuse about the Jets losing, I decided the best defense is a good offense," said Gartland, who has heard his three-page epic read on two Washington radio stations.

Anyone can tell you

A Dolphin is just a fish

To walk on the land

Is an impossible wish

Bashe, a student at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, may not be the group's best poet, but he was the most farsighted. Two months ago, he wrote this for a class assignment.

A magical sense was in the air in Pasadena that day

The stinging sense sent a chill up my spine and that chill was there to stay.

The 'Skins and the Dolphins were at the title again, just like a decade ago

Who would win this Super Bowl, nobody would know

Most of our poets will earn only the applause of friends. Such is the fate of artists everywhere. Whitmore is in a different position. People are encouraging him to try show business. "I jumped out of an airplane once just to see if I could do it," said Whitmore. "I don't intend to do that again, either."